Have you ever touched something hot and immediately dropped it? Did you know that the message of it being hot started at your fingers and worked its way to your brain and that the response was sent in an instant? Experiences like this can make us wonder how our body sends messages. Nerves travel the entire length of our bodies. From our brain to our feet and everywhere in-between. With such great lengths that need to be covered our body has many nerves to help cover these areas. This leads to the question of how nerves are connected. Well, like most science, these questions are not the easiest to answer.
Nerves send electrical signals to each other and where one nerve meets another nerve that area is called the synapse. This electrical signal can be transmitted to the next nerve in two ways. If there is a physical connection between the two nerves, then the electrical signal can simply just move from one nerve to another. However, there is not always a physical connection between the nerves and so the signal has to be sent in another way.
In these cases, the nerves must rely on a neurotransmitter to transmit the signal from one nerve to another. A neurotransmitter is a chemical signal that can move from one nerve to another. There are more than 50 different neurotransmitters used in our bodies. This helps your body to be more versatile and send specific messages across the nerves. The neurotransmitters must cross the synapse and get released by one neuron and received by another. That is why some pain medicines are more effective than others at providing relief. These drugs block the chemical response at the neurotransmitter, producing feelings of pain relief.
What Do Nerves Look Like?
Now you may be wondering how this all looks. Picture a tree where all the branches and leaves are at the top of the tree, and then it extends down to the trunk. Now picture two trees stacked on top of each other. The signal works its way down from the tree branches down to the base of the trunk. The trunk of the tree is called an axon, and this works its way down to the axon terminal, the spot where the neurotransmitters are waiting. The axon terminal is connected to another nerve at the branches or in a neuron a dendrite. This process continues, and a nerve can be connected to many other nerves because the dendrite has so many branches.
Nerves can be a complicated part of our nervous system but they are a necessary part of it. There is plenty of chemistry and physics that makes up more of the complete picture of how our nerves communicate with each other. However, the basics of how our nerves communicate are simple. An electrical signal or a chemical signal takes the message through a small gap in-between our nerves, and the message moves to the next one. It’s a vast cycle that sets on repeat.